...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again.
Primarily set in the town Ayemenem, in Kerala, The God of Small Things is a melancholic tale about the loss of childhood of two fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel. The narrative starts with thirty one year old Rahel returning to Ayemenem to reunite with her brother Estha, with whom she was separated at the age of seven. The story centres around the visit of their English cousin Sophie Mol. The visit overlaps with the love affair of Ammu, the twin’s divorced mother and Velutha, the family carpenter, an Untouchable in the society. Mostly written from the point of view of the children, the story switches in time between 1969 and present day India and evolves around the fateful drowning of Sophie Mol, intertwined with the forbidden love of Ammu with an Untouchable. Tricked by the twin’s grand aunt, the police assault Velutha, who succumbs to the savage injuries. ‘The Loss of Sophie Mol stepped softly around the Ayemenem House like a quiet thing in socks. It hid in books and food. In Mammachi's violin case. In the scabs of sores on Chacko's shins that he constantly worried. In his slack, womanish legs.’ After Sophie Mol’s funeral Estha is resent to their father. Gradually, he stops speaking altogether. Ammu is driven out of home and dies at the age of thirty one. ‘Ammu died in a grimy room in the Bharat Lodge in Alleppey, where she had gone for a job interview as someone's secretary. She died alone. With a noisy ceiling fan for company and no Estha to lie at the back of her and talk to her. She was thirty-one. Not old, not young, but a viable, die-able age.’ Rahel is expelled from school, marries and separates. Years later, she returns to meet her brother who was re-returned to Ayemenem, at that age when their Ammu had died. Thirty-one. Not old. Not young. But a viable die-able age. And '...all these years later, Rahel has a memory of waking up one night giggling at Estha's funny dream. She has other memories too that she has no right to have.’ The book ends with the word Tomorrow, the eternal promise of love and hope.
The God of Small Things is a nonlinear saga of loss and lamentation with focuses on caste system prevelant in the society, Communism and crevices inside the Syrian Christian family. Arundhati Roy, mesmerises the reader with her rich use of imagery and metaphors. She asks strange yet shocking questions to the reader, whereby Estha asks his mother, ‘If you’re happy in a dream, Ammu, does that count?’ The author adds, Because the truth is, that only what counts counts. This is a great book if you love beauty of strong language, rich use of words that appeal to all senses. In this book we meet Estha who began to look wiser than he really was. Like a fisherman in a city. With sea-secrets in him. The grand aunt is described as a person whom Rahel thought as living her life backwards. I believe only few other books can boast of such mighty expressions. However, this is not like other regular reads. The God of Small Things is a beautiful non linear narrative that has a language of its own in which the story gradually unfurls like peeling of onion skin. Go for it, if you can have some initial patience with the style. You can buy this book at amazon or at flipkart , in case you live in India.
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